A sign is a representation of an object that implies a connection between itself and its object. A natural sign bears a causal relation to its object—for instance, thunder is a sign of storm. A conventional sign signifies by agreement, as a full stop signifies the end of a sentence. (This is in contrast to a symbol which stands for another thing, as a flag may be a symbol of a nation).
The way a sign signifies is called semiosis which is a topic of semiotics and philosophy of language.
How a sign is perceived depends upon what is intended or expressed in the semiotic relationship of:
- Significance (i.e. meaning)
Thus, for example, people may speak of the significance of events, the signification of characters, the meaning of sentences, or the import of a communication. Different ways of relating signs to their objects are called modes of signification.
Uses of conventional signs are varied. Usually the goal is to elicit a response or simply inform. That can be achieved by marking something, displaying a message (i.e. a notice), drawing attention or presenting evidence of an underlying cause (for instance, medical symptoms signify a disease), performing a bodily gesture, etc.
Famous quotes containing the word sign:
“When two people decide to get a divorce, it isnt a sign that they dont understand one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to.”
—Helen Rowland (18751950)
“The symbolic view of things is a consequence of long absorption in images. Is sign language the real language of Paradise?”
—Hugo Ball (18861927)
“Prepare for death, if here at night you roam,
And sign your will before you sup from home.”
—Samuel Johnson (17091784)